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Training the Boss’ Pet

Dear Office-Politics,

Please help! Since I started my new position as an accounting supervisor last May, I have had nothing but hard times to get my boss’ pet to get her work done and meet deadlines. Both my boss and the pet are always covering up for themselves. If an invoice shows up not paid, she will find a story to tell. If my boss is supposed to get something done and gave it to her instead of me, she finds some kind of excuse or reason why her pet did not get it done or she may say “I’ll get it done” if she cannot find any reasonable excuse.

My whole department is affected by their behavior and it is hard for me to get my job done if the pet keeps making excuses such as “I forgot,” I mistakenly left it out,” or “I did not see it.” Everyone else gets their job done, but she always has a reason why her job has not been done. I have tried several coaching methods but this girl is just lazy. I and other members in the department have been picking up her slack and then she says “Oh, thank you… I had so many invoices.”

The work load has been redirected by my boss on several occasions in reaction to her complaints. Others feel treated unfairly because they will get in trouble if their work is not done instead of taking it away from them. Frankly, she has lesser work and still has a problem getting it done. She has been dishonest on several occasions when I ask if she needs assistance or has any invoices to be processed for payment. I found out she has been hiding her work when questions come up and then invoices suddenly show up with some crazy excuse.

I have spoken to my boss about her work on several occasions but no concrete support comes. She won’t let me put her on a performance plan. How do I change the person’s daily duties in order to achieve the departmental goal without stepping on my boss? Since she is always complaining about her work load, would it be advisable to take away some of her duties and have her perform duties that will not directly affect the department goals? I know the other team members will think that I am babysitting her by giving her less work, but at least the work will be done. We all have to do her work now anyway. She is just making it tougher on us when we find out that invoices have not been paid for months. Please advise.

Supervising the Boss’ Pet


dr. rick brandon
dr. marty seldman

Dear Supervising the Boss’ Pet,

We will address your issues in a moment, but first we would like to drive home a point to our readers who are leaders and in positions of power. This writer ’s letter illustrates the type of negative impact a leader has when choosing favorites, “pets”, or as we label it, bestows the “halo effect.” Individual and team performance may suffer; a lot of time is chewed up in side discussions about how unfair things are; morale is diminished and turnover may increase. The first negative impact is on the leader’s reputation. People wonder: “Does he see it? Why doesn’t he do anything about it?”

Back to your concerns. Like many people you seem to look at things in terms of what is fair and what is right.

Unfortunately there are some people who view things from the framework “What can I get away with?”These folks rarely respond to reason or arguments about fairness. They respond to power. The “pet” senses that she has power on her side and there is not much you can do now.

Being savvy will not always make things better but it can protect you from making things worse. Given the current conditions as you have described them your solution is temporarily the best. This is what is referred to as a “work around.” You are working around her deficiencies to minimize the damage she is doing to your team. Things can change.

One, the negative “buzz” about her may get so strong that the boss realizes it is negatively reflecting her. Two, she may get so comfortable or careless that she makes a major, visible mistake. Three, sometimes bosses leave or get transferred and then you can hold her accountable. For now we commend you in that you have demonstrated integrity and courage in repeatedly bringing up the issue but if you stay in your role minimizing her damage to your team may be your best option.

Thanks for writing to Office-Politics.

Warm regards,

Rick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. Co-authors,
Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success

cover of Survival of the SavvyRick Brandon, Ph.d. and Marty Seldman, Ph.D. are Co-authors, Survival of the Savvy: High-Integrity Political Tactics for Career and Company Success. Dr. Rick Brandon is CEO of Brandon Partners. He has consulted and trained tens of thousands at corporations worldwide, including Fortune 500 companies across a variety of industries. Dr. Marty Seldman is one of America’s most experienced executive coaches. His 35-year career includes expertise in executive coaching, group dynamics, cross-cultural studies, clinical psychology, and training.

Publication note: This letter was originally published in April 2006. We are republishing the best letters from Office-Politics as we categorize and integrate them with our blog format.

  1. 2 Answers to “Training the Boss’ Pet”

  2. Dear Advisors,
    I have a similar problem. MY boss is very much dominating .I was tolerating her thinking she is higher in Hierarchy. Now I have her pet as my subordinate. She also has same nature as of hers & the subordinate will talk to me in way as if she is above me& when it is my dealing with my boss relating to work she will not openly explain anything. Keeping most of the things to her secured with passwords. But when it comes to me she (boss) is telling me infront of all my subordinates to adopt an open policy& teach all my work to my subordinates ( meaning to teach onlly her pet)& as & when she gets a chance she will repeatedly tell she ( her pet) takes initiative & likes to learn the work so teach her & delegate all your work to her. .To tolerate her pet with same dominating attitude is very difficult.

    By cvjob on Apr 27, 2007

  3. I too suffer with a ‘pet’ – in my case I was forced to sit next to her and it was generally assumed that I was her assistant. At no stage was I asked if I wanted this honour. She spent most of her time ringing her family to discuss supper menus or shuffling thru papers whilst trying to treat me as a substitute daughter or subordinate. The crunch finally came when my mother was terminally ill and I had to carry on working as well as everything else. She persisted in going behind my back to take duties away from me whilst telling everyone that I couldn’t cope. I found this unforgiveable and due to no support or interest from my manager who had created the situation in the first place, I just ignored the pet as much as possible.

    I was finally moved in 2006. I didn’t handle it properly but had no idea where I was supposed to go or who to speak to. It has really changed my view on this job. When you see the useless and incompetent covered up for, and allowed to lord it over everyone else, it really does affect your job and not for the better.

    By carole t. on Apr 30, 2007

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